|Sree Padmanabhaswamy Temple in Thiruvananthapuram (Trivandrum), Kerala is the world’s richest temple!|
The Kerala Blog Express by Kerala Tourism kickstarted the two-week bloggers’ tour across “God’s Own Country” in the state capital of Thiruvananthapuram (pronounced tiru-ananta-puram) – still also known by its colonial name of Trivandrum. Besides its golden beaches, historical landmarks are the main draw of Trivandrum.
Our tour of the city began at the principal place of worship where the city takes its name, Sree Padmanabhaswamy Temple. Thiruvananthapuram means “City of the Lord Anantha”, referring to the serpent on whom Padmanabha or Vishnu reclines, as depicted in a 32-kg golden idol housed within the grand temple. While much of what we see today was built in the 18th century, many believed that the temple was established 5,000 years ago. A recent inventory of the temple vaults has revealed an overwhelming amount of gold coins, jewelry, statues and other treasures – amassed by the former royal family who served as temple custodians – that amount to more than USD 20 billion, making it the richest temple in the world! Unfortunately, we did not get to see its inner sanctum, nor any of the treasures, as only Hindus are allowed to enter the temple. Photography is also strictly prohibited in its inner quarters. But a walk around the temple grounds and the adjacent affords views of the impressive gopuram or central tower rising above the Kuthiramalika Palace and reflecting on Padmatheertha Pond.
|The Napier Museum is an exquisite fusion of Indian and British architectural styles.|
Moving forward to British colonial times, another architectural masterpiece in Thiruvananthapuram is the Napier Museum completed in 1880 with its Indo-Saracenic design, which draws elements from native Indo-Islamic and Indian architecture, combining it with Gothic revival and Neo-Classical styles of Victorian Britain. The museum houses a rare collection of archaeological and historic artifacts, bronze idols, ancient ornaments, a temple chariot and ivory carvings, as well as exotic articles such as Javanese shadow puppets and a Balinese calendar. While photography is prohibited inside the museum, I enjoyed taking photographs of the museum’s elaborate exterior. lording over gardens surrounding an old band stand. Our tour guide, Manoj, was quick to point out the blossoming kani konna or golden shower trees, which is the state flower of Kerala.
|Padmanabhapuram was the former capital of the Kingdom of Travancore that ruled southern Kerala|
Located 50 km away from Thiruvananthapuram, Padmanabhapuram Palace is worth the long drive to marvel at one of the best examples of palatial architecture built by the Kingdom of Travancore, a Hindu princely state which ruled southern Kerala from the 18th century to 1949. Interestingly, the palace complex is located in Kanyakumari, Tamil Nadu but administered by the state government of Kerala. The palace complex was built in 1601 and expanded by succeeding rulers around a smaller palace called Thai Kottaram or Mother’s Palace, built in 1550. Padmanabhapuram was the former capital of Travancore before the kingdom shifted to Thiruvananthapuram in 1795. Among the fascinating features of the palace complex are the 300-year-old clocktower (which still keeps time!), a wooden cot made of up of 64 pieces of a variety of medicinal trees; and a secret passage the royal family would use as an emergency exit leading to another palace.
|Stay along one of the scenic golden beaches of Thiruvananthapuram|
|Uday Samudra Leisure Hotel & Spa in Kovalam, Thiruvananthapuram, Kerala|
WHERE TO STAY: Most visitors opt to stay along the beaches of Thiruvananthapuram, namely Kovalam, Chowara, Poovar and Varkala. I stayed in Uday Samudra Leisure Beach Hotel & Spa in Kovalam, which has a quaint beachfront that I especially enjoyed where one can watch local fishermen haul in large fishing nets in the morning. Another topnotch option is The Leela Kovalam, perched on a promontory, with spectacular sunset views over Samudra Beach.
For those looking for an indulgent Ayurveda holiday, go for the award-winning resorts of Somatheeram and Manaltheeram overlooking Chowara Beach. For a backwaters retreat, Poovar Island Resort has an Ayurveda spa village set in a lush estuary. The floating villas here are amazing! Lastly, Varkala Beach is a scenic coastline with red laterite cliffs that offers affordable sleeps for the budget-conscious. If you insist on staying closer to the city center, check out Mascot Hotel Trivandrum.
This blog post was made possible through Kerala Blog Express, a blogger tour organized by Kerala Tourism that took 27 travel bloggers from 14 countries on a two-week journey from Thiruvananthapuram to Wayanad. The exclusive tour was held from March 9 to 26, 2014.
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